United States Army Master Sgt. Matthew O. Williams, a Green Beret who braved heavy enemy fire to perform life-saving actions during a 2008 mission in Afghanistan, received the nation’s highest military decoration.
President Donald Trump, in a Medal of Honor ceremony, recognized Williams for his actions under fire during a commando operation in the Nuristan province of Afghanistan. In Trump’s White House remarks, he described Williams’ actions during a 2008 mission that would come to be known as the Battle of Shok Valley.
The Green Berets of the 3rd Special Forces Group were deployed by CH-47 Chinook helicopters and lead a contingent of friendly Afghan commandos. The mission was to take out a leader of the Hezb-e Islami al Gulbadin insurgent group, but conditions quickly changed when the attacking force encountered a much larger force of around 200 dug in enemy fighters, ready for a fight.
“And it was a big surprise — a very unwelcome surprise, I might add,” Trump said. “The terrorists filled the valley with a hail of bullets and explosions.”
Williams soon learned that the leading contingent of the Green Berets and Afghan commandos were pinned down and casualties were mounting. The Green Beret quickly organized the Afghan commandos under his own command and led a counter-assault to stop the enemy ambush.
Williams was joined by fellow Green Berets Scott Ford and Ronald Shurer, who came to the aid of their trapped brothers-in-arms. After assessing the casualties, Williams then ran back down the mountain to gather more support before climbing back up under heavy machine gun fire.
The Green Beret shot and killed a pair of combatants rushing to overtake a group of his wounded teammates.
“He then helped evacuate the wounded down a very, very steep cliff,” Trump continued, describing Williams’ actions. Williams continued on for several hours, fighting off insurgents and evacuating his team. By his actions, not one U.S. soldier died in the battle.
Trump read from a letter written after the battle by Williams’ unit commander, which said, “‘I’ve never seen a troop so poised, focused, and capable during a… fight.’ And Matt is without question and without reservation, ‘one of the bravest soldiers’ and people ‘I have ever met.'”
Williams reportedly continues to serve on active duty with 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, N.C. Williams, a Boerne, Texas native has served in the Army for 14 years, according to the Army.
At his Medal of Honor ceremony, he was joined by his wife Kate, his parents Michael and Janet, siblings Cody and Amy, as well as eight previous Medal of Honor recipients including Shurer, his teammate in the same battle, who also received the Medal of Honor in October of 2018 for his own efforts in saving the wounded Green Berets and Afghan soldiers.
In his Wednesday ceremony, Williams asked to have several of his teammates recognized.
“Matt wants all Americans to know that he was not alone in his heroism that day,” Trump said.
The President recognized nine additional U.S. soldiers present in the battle, as well as two Afghan translators that fought alongside the team.
“The enemy that really held a high ground, superior numbers, and an element of surprise — they had it all going; everything they’re not supposed to have, they had,” Trump said, “But they had one major disadvantage: They were facing the toughest, strongest, and best-trained soldiers anywhere in the world.”